28. A Walk in the Park

28. A Walk in the Park

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Summer decided to take a brief break when Monday dawned. The hitherto blue skies were dominated by clouds, but the good thing so far as the two teenagers were concerned was that Jennifer still had access to her father’s car and the clouds didn’t look like rain clouds. And an extra bonus was the weather was just as warm as it had been the previous week. Indeed, in addition to the heat there was a sultry moisture to it, which was uncomfortable.

Jennifer parked the car in front of the vehicle that a refurbished Marion Girdler had climbed into last week, and they waited. And as they waited Jennifer (whose camera was obviously superior to Darren’s older model by mutual agreement) took a few photographs of the person in the driving seat of the target car, through the rear window, trying not to be seen.

It’s a woman,” she said when she was satisfied she had taken enough, “look!”

She showed the images in the camera’s viewer to Darren, and it certainly was a woman, there could have been no doubt about that. And there wasn’t anything remarkable about her, either. She was of an indeterminate age, probably older than forty but younger than sixty, dressed in beige, at least her top half was, the part of her that was visible. It was impossible to see what else she might have been wearing.

She’s coming!” hissed Darren, alert for Mrs Girdler.

And he was right. Dressed in her usual unfashionable outfit she strode up to the gate of the house they were sure looked empty, and using a key, opened the door and went in. Darren took more photographs from the different angle that their car gave them. Then, five or so minutes later she reappeared in a tiny minidress, and she had done something to her hair so that it no longer looked to be that of a bedraggled older woman but had about it the gloss and bounce of relative youth.

Quite a transformation,” whispered Jennifer, “I must remember that for when I’m old and grey!”

You’ll never get to look like the way she was ten minutes ago,” Darren told her.

We can hope,” smiled Jennifer.

They watched, keeping as much to being out of sight as they could, as the young version of Marion Girdler climbed into the waiting car. Then she looked at its driver and nodded, and did the unexpected. She kissed her on the lips before she pulled on her seat belt, and the two women laughed.

When their car drove off both Jennifer and Darren ducked below the level of the windscreen. They didn’t want to be seen, though neither of them could have explained why. After all, they were a young couple in a car that only happened to be pulling out and following Mrs Girdler and her friend like many cars would any day of the week.

The car they were following went a few miles outside the town, and stopped at a large public park and gardens. It was when they climbed out that the mystery, so far as they were concerned, deepened. The car drove off, leaving Marion Girdler on the pavement. Then she sauntered into the park and went up to a seat next to one on which an elderly man in a wheelchair sat hunched and huddled. He was wrapped in a blanket that covered him from chin to feet and seemed totally unnecessary bearing in mind the weather. And as if to prove the point the clouds had started to disperse, the sun poked a finger of itself between two shrinking cumulonimbus clouds, and shone on the scene they were about to witness.

Marion sat next to the elderly man. He was in his wheelchair looking as if it might be out in mid-winter whilst she, barely dressed at all, sat as close to him as she could get, and reached for a gnarled hand and took it in one of her own.

The scene was touching. Jennifer, making sure she was unseen, took a photograph or two.

Come on,” she said to Darren, “let’s make out that we’re two lovers out for a walk in the sun. I’ll park the car across the road first.”

She carefully did that, and they climbed out.

Are you sure?” asked Darren.

Of course! Come on!”

She took Darren by one hand and the two of them sauntered through the gate and stood gazing around.

I’ve an idea,” smiled Jennifer, “come over here.”

She led him long an attractive winding path bordered with flowers and with beds of shrubs in flower just behind it. The scene was idyllic.

Stay where you are,” said Jennifer, “a bit to the left would help. That’s such a pretty sight. I want to keep it for posterity!” And she took at least three pictures of him in rapid succession. Then he ran up to him, camera in hand, so that he could see her photographs.

Look at the background,” she said, and Darren saw exactly what she meant. He was there in the foreground, of course, surrounded by a display of bright colours you could almost smell even though it was just a picture, and there, behind him, was quite clearly a tiny image of their target and the old man.

That’s blow up really clear,” she giggled. “Come on.

You’re so … clever!” he told her, meaning it.

Come on! Let’s say hello to them. After all, we’ve as much right to be here as they have!”

Are you sure?”

Trust me!”

And he knew that he could trust her. She was bright, beautiful and above everything else, radiated cheerful innocence.

Hand in hand, she led him towards the wheelchair and Marion Girdler. When she reached them she paused, looked at Marion and gasped “why, it’s Marion isn’t it? Marion Bissett? Do you remember me? I’m Jennifer Sagebrush! Why, you have changed! You do look nice.”

Marion smiled back. “I wouldn’t have thought anyone would remember the grumpy creature I was back then,” she said, “fancy seeing you … Jennifer, you said?”

I was younger than you, Marion, and I know that older girls don’t take much notice of younger ones. How lovely to see you! Is this your father?”

She indicated the gnarled old man who was even older that she’d at first thought.

No. No. This is Percy Condor. He’s an acquaintance.”

The old man coughed into a handkerchief. “I’m dying,” he said, “but before I go … Marion comes along … legs, I like … like to see her legs…”

That’s right,” smiled Marion, “it might seem peculiar, but dear old Percy has lived a sheltered life, haven’t you, Percy?”

He nodded with extraordinary vigour for one so obviously ancient.

I never…” he sighed, “never ever… knew...

He coughed again. Then he slumped to one side, his dim eyes open but sightless.

He’s gone to sleep,” said Marion, “poor old soul. But I get paid for it. I know I look a downright disgrace, virtually naked as I am, but I get paid to sit with him three times a week, here on this park, when the weather’s right. But he’s asleep now. He does it all the time.”

Darren stared at him, then took a step backwards.

He’s not asleep,” he said, “the poor old man is dead….”

© Peter Rogerson 27.05.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 27, 2021
Last Updated on May 27, 2021
Tags: old man, legs, sleep, school friends


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..